The Role of Personalities
Next, the Perrys talk about different personality types and traits that often present challenges regarding headship. For example, some men might fear that “giving their wife too much room will eliminate their own authority and control over their household and their marriage,” Jackie notes.
In response, Preston says that’s where trust and mutual respect must come in. “For me to muzzle any of your leadership, that does not serve my home,” he says. Instead, it just creates friction and discord.
Passivity is another tension-causing trait because in our society we assume that leaders aren’t passive. Yet gentleness is a biblical trait of a qualified elder (1 Timothy 3:1-6). To men who think their leadership isn’t sufficient because they have a less-assertive personality type, the couple offers reminders that Jesus was assertive yet gentle. Jesus offers a balanced leadership style for his followers to emulate.
Preston admits he was too intense about headship when the Perrys were newly married. As a result, the two spouses “kept bumping heads.” Jackie describes her husband “trying to bully me into submission,” which was counterproductive. As a result, Preston chose the other extreme but then became too passive. Making adjustments, acknowledging your wife’s strengths, and seeking out balance all are key to biblical headship, he says.
Trust, Wisdom, Love and Compromise
To trust a spouse with leadership and decision-making, say the Perrys, people must first trust in the Lord. Other essential components they list include wisdom, love, compromise, and open, ongoing discussions.
Men who dominate their wives in unhealthy ways must overcome any insecurities and fears at the root. Underneath the fear, says Preston, is a worry that unless you control the narrative, then the marriage will get out of control or your wife will run all over you.
Although dominating is “easy,” the Perrys point out, “leading a woman with love is scary, and therefore harder.” Preston says, “True Christlike headship is just as scary as submission.” That’s because Ephesians 5:21 talks about “equal submission,” with the husband “surrendering a lot of my will to love” my wife. Vulnerability is paramount, he adds, because “before the Church even responded to Jesus, Jesus made himself vulnerable to us on the cross.”
If a husband isn’t feeling vulnerable regularly, Preston notes, it’s a sign that he’s probably not leading well. “If you’re feeling like the one who’s always in control, you’re probably leading more like a Pharisee than Jesus.”
For those women who do prefer a more “aggressive” leadership style, say the couple, then they can’t blame their husbands “if that aggression spills over into the relationship”—though they emphasize that abuse isn’t acceptable. “We have to be consistent in what we want in a leader,” says Preston.